Second-tier PGA Tour events could be in line for a big boost
The PGA Tour’s top players could be in for a pushing match with tour’s Player Advisory Council, or so it seems after reading an article discussing the possibility of forcing players like Phil Mickelson and Tiger Woods to play second-tier tour events in the coming years, all in the hopes of boosting interest before Tim Finchem and crew have to deal with a big issue in 2012.
The issue I’m talking about is the tour’s television contract with NBC and CBS, which is up for renewal in 2012. That, coupled with lack of sponsorship interest in second-tier events (read: all nine events on the schedule currently without sponsors for 2011) has forced the PAC to consider an idea that will be a touchy issue for a group of glorified independent contractors.
Golfweek’s Sean Martin has the info on the June 1 meeting that’s supposed to take place the week of the Memorial. After reading the takes from various players, it’s easy to see how this meeting could get a little heated.
While this wouldn’t be the same type of system as the LPGA’s one-in-four, it would be the closest idea yet to mimicking their current rule that forces players to play every event on tour at least once in a four-year period.
“Having the players play more events is going to be good for the PGA Tour, period,” said Paul Goydos, a member of the PAC. “The hard thing is figuring out how to do it without pushing too hard. We are independent contractors. That’s a difficult problem to get around.”
The concept that will be presented at the PAC meeting is called “Designated Tournaments,’’ according to a memo sent to players and agents, a copy of which was obtained by Golfweek. When questioned about the initiatives outlined in the memo, Goydos told Golfweek that the concept would involve designating a handful of events each year and mandating that top players play in at least one of those targeted events.
So where do you draw the line when it comes to forcing some of the bigger names to play an event in Reno, Nev., during the Fall Finish, that they normally wouldn’t play? Therein lies the biggest hurdle for the PAC.
Quite honestly, I don’t think it would hurt some of the players to pick an event from a list of four and play it once a year. It would give them a chance to help the tour’s bottomline. And given the looming television contract deal that’s coming up at the end of 2012, it would seem logical to have everyone band together and help out some of the smaller events that could go by the wayside if they don’t get some help.
Case in point: The Byron Nelson Championship. I was blown away by the lack of interest from some of the game’s bigger names. No offense to Hunter Mahan, but you know a tournament’s struggling when he’s your headliner for the week.
Keep in mind, this event used to draw one of the biggest fields of the year when Byron Nelson was still alive. His passing has, unfortunately, rendered the tournament an also-ran. As much as the tournament doesn’t want to admit it, Mr. Nelson’s personal notes to players, asking them to play in the tournament, closed a lot of deals over the years.
Assuming a “designated tournaments” rule is in place by 2012 (it’s a little more realistic than 2011), that would give the tour a little more leverage before going to the table with CBS and NBC. Not committing to a tournament rule like this prior to 2012 could be a huge blow to the tour’s contract going forward. And that could mean less money for everyone involved with the PGA Tour.
Unless the players can live with smaller purses and fewer events in the future it would behoove them to strongly consider this rule. The future of the PGA Tour could hang on it.
(Image: Roy Doty)